This morning came with a mixture of news that the word “bittersweet” was designed for. After over 35 years in the industry, a time across which he made 11 features films, Hayao Miyazaki has officially announced his retirement from filmmaking. Mind you, he’s been saying he’d retire for some time now, but the arrival of WWII biopic The Wind Rises at Venice Film Festival has us actually believing it now. Sad as it is to announce the retirement of a cinema legend, particularly during this rather appalling year of animation, it comes on a grace note since critics have been widely delighted by the allegedly final film from master animator. Word has been that this film isn’t as fantastical as his prior films, but it’s every bit as beautiful. Take a look at the reviews we’ve gathered below.
Guy Lodge of In Contention:
It’s as a stylized romance, its heartbeats subtly reflected in Miyazaki’s vivid atmospheric detail, that the film works most rewardingly as an emotional experience. As a one-man biopic, however, its earnestly traditional storytelling can seem dry, even a little turgid, against the film’s more innovative sensory properties. (Structurally, this isn’t a million miles from the noble, profession-oriented biopics than studios cranked out in the 1940s, often for leading men as dour as Walter Pidgeon.) At over two hours, there’s perhaps a smidge more nitty-gritty aeronautical detail than I strictly needed to feel enraptured — and, by a mordant ending that requires the viewer to fill in a few historical blanks, suitably intimidated — by the miracle of flight. In this ravishing passion project from an artist still in full autumnal leaf, planes are as hearts are as hats: all starships, meant to touch the sky.
Oliver Lyttelton of The Playlist:
It’s a touch disappointing that the film’s biopic structure proves as constraining as it does; most of the story beats play out as you’d expect them to in a film like this one. But if the story itself is conventional, the way it’s told is anything but. There’s a lot to unpack here, with debate likely to continue long past its eventual U.S. release (and it should be noted that it’s fairly surprising that Disney have picked up a film that features as much smoking as half a season of “Mad Men,” even given the long association between the two studios). It might not be the director’s most immediately accessible films, but it’s among his most fascinating and beguiling.
Scott Foundas of Variety:
By the start of the 1930s, Jiro has begun work on the design of a carrier-based fighter that will become the Mitsubishi A5M (the precursor of the A6M). And though Miyazaki has stated that the intention of the film is not to condemn war, “The Wind Rises” continues the strong pacifist themes of his earlier “Nausicaa” and “Princess Mononoke,” marveling at man’s appetite for destruction and the speed with which new technologies become weaponized. On vacation in the countryside, Jiro meets a German expat, Castorp, who quotes from Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” (a novel whose allegorical portrayal of pre-WWI Europe is echoed in the structure of Miyazaki’s film) and warns of Japan and Germany’s road to ruin. It is also there that Jiro reconnects by chance with Nahoko, now a ravishing young woman, albeit one suffering from TB. Nevertheless, they fall into each other’s arms and “The Wind Rises” takes on yet another dimension — that of an old-fashioned, tragic Hollywood romance.
Xan Brooks of The Guardian:
Naturally the animation is a joy to behold. The film’s crisp colours and commanding lines summon up a ravishing portrait of pre-war Japan with its puffing steam-trains, huddled neighbourhoods and lulling nocturnal tram-rides through town. Some of the setpieces (most notably the apocalyptic earthquake that leads to the burning of Tokyo) are the equal of anything the director has produced in Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro. But the film itself is genteel to a fault. It’s too polite, it needs more bite. It lets enigmatic Horikoshi off the hook, bobbing out to the clouds, forever out of reach.
Robbie Collins of The Telegragh:
As an avowed Miyazaki-ite, did I love The Wind Rises? On a first watch, no – but it strikes me that fanboyish adoration would be entirely the wrong response to this film, just as you wouldn’t walk out of a late-period Ozu or Bresson punching the air and whooping for a sequel. “Artists are only active for ten years,” one character tells Jiro. “We engineers are the same. Live your ten years to the full.” Miyazaki, who is both artist and engineer, has now lived his decade three times over, and yet he continues to astonish.
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